Well, it’s been about three weeks since my original post so I thought I’d give an update on my situation. It’s been quite a ride, that’s for sure!
I’ve tried out 7 hearing aids in the past few weeks while my old one was sent out for repairs by Lloyd Hearing Aid Co. Since cost was a concern at first, I started with less expensive, simpler options and ended with a older-model Phonak Naida for about $1,000. The first aid, the Base 2P from Lloyd, had wide range dynamic compression which I realized after noticing background noises fading in and out. Traded that in for a Microson aid (made in Spain, I believe) that lowered the pitch of sounds. Gave up on Lloyd at that point and ordered a couple aids online- a cheap Siemens Lotus from Amazon and a refurbished Phonak PicoForte analog that was a very similar model to my old one. While waiting for the online orders to arrive, I had an appointment with another audiologist who recommended the Phonak Naida S and loaned me a (frikking huge) Siemens BTE analog until the new digital arrived. Couldn’t get the base and mid-tones adjusted comfortably on that loaner. Meanwhile…
The Lotus from Amazon was actually not too bad! Definitely one of the top contenders for a replacement at this point. But then the refurb PicoForte arrived, and after tweaking the trimmers a bit it sounds about 95% similar to my old aid. (It should! It’s just a slightly different model.) I then got a call from Lloyd that my hearing aid was repaired and ready to be picked up!! I was so excited to make that drive… but when I got to the office for my appointment, I inspected the aid and realized right away that it wasn’t my old one that had been sent in. I was casually informed at that point that “your old aid wasn’t able to be repaired, so the lab sent you this one instead.” Even though I am incredibly pissed off that my old aid wasn’t returned to me (they’re apparently still trying to track it down after I insisted on it being located and returned) the one they sent me is another slightly-different PicoForte model and is also very close to my old one.
Then I got the call from the other audiologist’s office that my Naida was in, so made an appointment with her to try it out. This went horribly- even though the compression, SoundRecover, and feedback suppression were turned off, we were butting heads about how to set the gain for the different channels. She starts giving me dubious looks and telling me that I’m “really far off my target” and that “your prescription really should be for these settings.” I knew as soon as I got to the noisier receptionist’s area that I wasn’t going to be able to handle the sounds, but made it to the car before ripping it out of my ear and having (yet another) meltdown. I did want to take it home and try to figure out how to communicate the sound differences to the audiologist and perhaps have it adjusted more to my comfort, but after the Naida completely mangled the high, pure flute notes in my favorite piece of classical music I just… gave up.
I returned the Naida this afternoon. I now have 2 working, refurbished Phonak PicoForte analogs and I’m thinking about ordering a third one online while I wait for word from the repair lab on the whereabouts of my old one. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to get my hands on these analog gems! So here are my thoughts on my failed attempt to switch from analog to digital –
I have heard sounds a certain way all my life, since my parents first got me an aid between 2-3 years old. However my auditory cortex has developed, it has been in conjunction with the older analog technology. I now have over 3 decades worth of auditory memories that would have to be re-programmed by my brain if I were to switch to digital, as well as just “getting used to the sound of it.” Even though my audiologist assured me that my “normal” perception of sounds is not actually physiologically correct, my “normal” hearing has allowed me to be a straight-A student in school, fall in love and get married, start my own business, enjoy many types of music and hanging out with friends, understand speech pretty darn well most of the time… and I realized that I currently don’t have the emotional capacity to work on getting closer to being “correct” hearing-wise. So I’m done. We’re out of money for more experimentation now anyways.
Perhaps in the future I will re-visit the digital options, if I can find an audiologist who’s willing to toss “prescriptions” and “targets” out the window in favor of my comfort and who will work reallllly slowly towards actual improvements in my speech comprehension if I feel I need it. More likely, I’ll order a Hi-Pro box from ebay, purchase slightly-older model aids from someone like JustinHIS here on the forums, and pirate the fitting software.
I know this was really long, but I hope my experience might help someone else in this predicament. It will definitely take either the help of a super-experienced and sympathetic audiologist or a completely independent DIY mindset to make the transition! Thanks for reading. =)